My First "Viral" Experience and What I Learned From It
Sometimes when you finish writing a piece, you get a certain feeling. A good feeling. It's a feeling that makes you think, "I may have hit a home run with that one." Last Monday, I got that feeling with "10 Bruce Lee Quotes That Can Improve Your Writing." I hit the publish button and crossed my fingers, hoping that sensation would translate to happy readers and perhaps a few more hits than usual. For the most part, that's what I got.
The comments I received that week told me that most of you guys and gals (who are awesome) seemed to enjoy the article, and my pageviews were even a little higher than average--but only by a little. And that was just fine by me. I went about my week as usual, thankful for the small nudge and looking forward to writing the next entry.
Then late Friday night, I logged in to take a quick gander at things and saw this:
|Pageviews (in Gazillionty Bajillions)|
In the space of a few hours, my blog had garnered more views than in the entire month of June combined. "Oh my," thought I. "Something has happened."
That something turned out to be my first taste of a semi-viral blog entry. After some investigation, I found that my Bruce Lee article had been discovered and shared by a few folks on twitter, eventually finding its way to @AdviceToWriters, who tweeted it to more than a hundred thousand people. That one tweet got over a hundred retweets, and my link ended up being passed around by tons of people, most of whom I'd never met or spoken to before.
To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a vast understatement. I really can't tell you how thankful I am that so many people enjoyed my post enough to share it with their friends and followers. Seriously, thank you. Now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, the question is what have I learned from the experience? Allow me to tell you in list form:
Everybody Likes a Good List
But we already knew that. Yeah? I mean, you're reading one right now.
Enhance Your Content With Yourself
For a long while, I've been debating just how much I should stray away from the topic of writing and veer into my other interests. Before that Bruce Lee article, I'd considered writing about my martial arts obsession many times over, but I'd usually end up talking myself out of it. After all, most of my readership comes from the writing community, so it probably wouldn't serve to talk about something that might turn them off.
Then it occurred to me that I could have the best of both worlds. The answer lied in finding a way to combine my interest in martial arts with my blog's primary subject. It worked, and resulted in my most popular entry to date by a long shot. So don't be afraid to bring more of yourself to the table.
Attack From Different Angles
I love writing about the craft, but let's be honest: there's already a lot of great writing advice out there. It's a subject that has been explored very thoroughly over the years, and I'm not exactly preaching from the same pulpit as Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. In many ways, I'm still a n00b myself. This can present a challenge.
No one wants to regurgitate content that's already readily available, and no one wants to read the same thing over and over again in different places. Embracing the previous item on this list allowed me to come at my subject from an angle I might never have thought of otherwise. I think one of the reasons so many people liked that article is because it delivered common, easily digestible advice that was flavored by its unique approach. Uniqueness is attractive, and it shows.
Social Media Works . . . When It Wants To
For the most part I'd already embraced Twitter, but after my experience this past weekend, I'm even more convinced of how powerful it can be. It was crazy to look at my "Bruce Lee" search stream and watch tons of people I'd never met link to my blog in real time.
But the interesting part of this experience is that it wasn't a tweet of my own that got the ball rolling. I did tweet about the article shortly after I posted it, but the "viral" snowball happened days later, without any action on my part. In other words, self-promotion didn't mean didly in this instance. The links were spreading on the merit of the article alone. So if you want to go viral, worry about how strong your content is before worrying about how well you're promoting it.
Forge a Title that Catches Eyes
I'd be remiss if I ignored the obvious fact that "10 Bruce Lee Quotes That Can Improve Your Writing" is an eye-catching title. While I had no idea just how many eyes it would ultimately catch, I knew that my homerun swing began with those first nine words. If you'd like to follow suit, be sure to craft a title that is simple, to the point, and enticing to the reader.
Bruce Lee is Awesome and Everybody Knows It
I mean, seriously. The man beat up Chuck Norris for crying out loud!
Thanks again to everyone who was tossing my link around. I hope some of you have chosen to stick around and see what else I have to offer. I'll do my best not to disappoint.